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Smith to make changes at Bristol Motor Speedway

March 28th, 2012 5:50 pm by Dave Ongie

BRISTOL, Tenn. — After a week and a half of sifting through input from race fans, Bruton Smith has decided that something must be done to the track surface at Bristol Motor Speedway.

What that something is remains to be seen, but after spending some time at the half-mile track on Wednesday, the chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports said that hard hats and heavy machinery will soon be descending on the facility.

“The race fans have spoken,” Smith said. “We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made.

“As a result, I have ordered the equipment, and work will begin within the next two weeks to allow time to have everything ready for August.”

The public response in the wake of NASCAR’s Food City 500, which was run on March 18 in front of a sparse crowd, has been largely critical of the new track surface that was installed at BMS back in 2007. In surveys conducted by the track, 75 percent of fans said they preferred the old configuration.

The new surface has promoted side-by-side racing, which has cut down on the rough brand of racing that the old single-groove surface created. In the 10 Sprint Cup races run since the resurfacing, the caution flag has flown an average of 8.5 times per race.

But in the 10 races before the reconfiguration, the track produced an average of 14.5 cautions per event.

While a majority of the Cup drivers have been enamored with the clean racing produced by the new surface, many NASCAR stars were taken aback when they were greeted by half-empty grandstands prior to the Food City 500.

Kevin Harvick, who won a Cup race on the old layout in 2005, said last Wednesday that the fans who stayed away from the track delivered a clear message.

“I feel like the old-style track brought what the fans want to see, and whether it’s what the car owners want to see or the drivers, and whether you’ve got to run into each other or you don’t, the old-style racing was more to the appeal of the fans,” Harvick said. “Sometimes things don’t work out and you’ve got to go back to what worked before, and I think what we had there before was what the fans want to see, and it was an exciting race.”

Smith has previously estimated that it will cost around $1 million to resurface the track before the next NASCAR race weekend in August. The assumption is that Smith will return the track to its previous single-groove configuration, and he said last week that his engineers have the data to return the track to its previous layout.

But Smith offered no specifics Wednesday in terms of what exactly will be done to the track.

“The question we wanted to answer as quickly as possible was ‘Is something going to be done?’” Smith said. “The answer to that is ‘yes.’ We will have the details in two weeks as to what that ‘something’ is.”

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